Film re-releases are generally not the source of great joy and anticipation. But then Talking Heads are no ordinary band and its Jonathan Demme-directed 1984 cult classic Stop Making Sense is no ordinary concert film. Stop Making Sense is a popular contender for the greatest concert film of all time and Talking Heads remain one of the most popular and beloved American bands decades after they broke up. Fans have never stopped pining for a reunion but that doesn’t seem likely due to the usual rock and roll issues and weirdness between Byrne and the rest of the band.
Stop Making Sense has just returned to theaters — from red-hot hipster distributor A24 — and has brought the soundtrack, and the film, back to the masses. As of September 24, 2023, Stop Making Sense made 1.4 million dollars at the box office. Deadline has noted that this re-release has drawn a “young crowd.” Here at Fatherly, we’re not shocked. In fact, we called it. It makes perfect sense that Gen-Z loves this movie, and while we’re at it, let’s talk about why you should take your young kids to see the movie right now, too.
Like The Beatles, (seemingly) everyone loves Talking Heads. Need convincing that kids will love the Talking Heads? Well, here it is: Their music has special appeal to kids because so much of it is fundamentally child-like and they themselves seem like children in the best possible sense. The Talking Heads were one of the most adventurous and accomplished New Wave acts and New Wave similarly is an offspring of rock and roll which has a special appeal for children thanks to its outsized personalities, crazy costumes, cartoonish alter egos, iconically ridiculous hairstyles, bright colors, synthesizers, and catchy tunes. If punk rock was for angry, rebellious teenagers mad at the world then New Wave was for their geeky, tech-loving younger siblings.
Back in the ‘80s, many people who are now dads fell in love with The Talking Heads because it was easy for kids to identify with Byrne’s persona and he seemed to see the world. Even within an idiosyncratic genre like New Wave, Byrne stood out for having a personality as big as the suit he wore in Stop Making Sense. Certain ‘80s kids related to Byrne because he seemed overwhelmed and terrified of a scary adult world that is fundamentally unknowable. Byrne’s work with The Talking Heads captures, on a visceral level, the sense of disorientation and confusion children experience trying to navigate the tricky waters of contemporary American life.
In his big white suit, Byrne even looks like a cartoon character or human graffiti, like a Keith Haring drawing of an uptight Manhattan businessman. Stop Making Sense documents Talking Heads’ live show at the height of its artsy yet populist powers when the band tumbled backward accidentally into superstardom purely through talent and unmistakable presence. The core group of David Byrne, drummer Chris Frantz, bassist Tina Weymouth, and keyboardist Jerry Harrison was augmented by Bernie Worrell, a legendary Parliament-Funkedelic synthesizer player who lent the band’s weird white funk from outer space a slippery authenticity. Late in the film Byrne briefly leaves the stage so that his bandmates can perform their hit “Genius of Love” as The Tom Tom Club. “Genius of Love”, which is one of the most sampled songs of the past fifty years, sounds like a funk nursery rhyme despite references to doing coke
Stop Making Sense is famously minimalist but Byrne didn’t need empty spectacle to mesmerize movie audiences as powerfully as he did live crowds. A24’s upcoming re-release of Stop Making Sense is the perfect introduction to an all-time great American band. After you see the movie, you can then you can introduce your young ones to Byrne’s OTHER timeless cinematic masterpiece from this era, the 1986 comedy True Stories. Byrne’s sole film as a writer, director, and star is a characteristically child-like and surreal exploration of what it means to be American that focuses on a small Texan town as it prepares for a “Celebration of Specialness” in honor of the 150th anniversary of Texas independence.
The result suggests a gentler, more humane early Christopher Guest film as filtered through Byrne’s unique sensibility and John Goodman scored one of his first big starring roles as an adorable teddy bear of a bachelor looking for love.
Either way, there’s never a bad time to introduce your children to the wonders of Talking Heads but this seems like a particularly auspicious and perfect moment to do so.
Stop Making Sense movie tickets
Stop Making Sense is playing in theaters from A24 as of September 2023. Grab tickets here.
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